Everything You Need to Know About Star Wars Canon That's Not in the Movies
New Star Wars canon might also be able to help us with the wealth of questions that currently surround Star Wars: The Force Awakens. In fact, certain characters from JJ Abrams movies have already been referenced in canon books and comics, but there are so many more tidbits of information that could become relevant come December 18th. To make sure you're as prepared as possible for whatever curveballs Star Wars: The Force Awakens, check out this list the most important learnings to take from the new Star Wars canon.
The Force is More Than Just Jedi and Sith
The Star Wars movies paint a very limited picture of the Force. Midichlorians aside, the Force is really only ever used by Jedi and Sith in the movies, but the other Canon properties show us that the Force plays a much bigger role in the Galaxy. In Star Wars: Clone Wars, visits to the planet Dathomir gave us an insight into The Nightsisters, a clan of force-sensitive beings who used the Force in a very different way. With Mother Talzin as their leader, the Nightsister way of using the Force was more 'Double, Double Toil and Trouble' than mystic ninja warrior. If you need convincing on the power that a Nightsister has, we strongly recommend reading the book, Dark Disciple, which follows the Nightsister and one-time Sith Apprentice, Asajj Ventress, on a mission to execute Count Dooku.
It was also during Clone Wars that we got our biggest insight into the mythology behind the Force. When Obi Wan, Anakin and Ahsoka find themselves on the planet Mortis, they discover three beings through which the entire Force flowed. Each representing a different side of the Force, the trio were locked in an eternal battle to tip the Force in their favor, but it wasn't until Anakin (aka the Chosen One) showed up on Mortis that true balance was brought to the Force....even if that balance was only fleeting.
Darth Maul Beyond The Phantom Menace
He might have been sliced in half by an angry Jedi, but Darth Maul's involvement in Star Wars canon did not end with The Phantom Menace. Maul was kept alive by salvagers and given a robotic lower torso and legs. Maul plays a large role in the Clone Wars TV show, but his greatest storyline came in Darth Maul: Son of Dathomir: the only Dark Horse Star Wars comic to remain canon after the Disney takeover. The comic picks up after the Maul storyline in Clone Wars and sees the one-time Sith Lord launch a full-scale war on his ex-Master, Darth Sidious. With the help of the Nightsisters, Sidious's new apprentice and an elite squad of Mandalorians, Maul comes close to besting the man who would become Emperor Palpatine. But as we know from the movies, Sidious does not perish at the hand of Maul, and instead goes on to terrorize the galaxy throughout the Star Wars saga.
In the time between Star Wars: Attack of the Clones and Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, Anakin Skywalker had a young Jedi apprentice. Ahsoka Tano's coming of age was as much at the center of the Clone Wars as the Clone Wars themselves. Inheriting her master's disdain for hierarchy, Ahsoka soon grew skeptical of the effectiveness of the Jedi Council, and was eventually framed for crimes she didn't commit. While Ahsoka's story was cut short when Clone Wars was cancelled, her last act on the show was to leave the Jedi Order, and she wouldn't re-emerge until some 18 years later.
The Dark Padawan
If you haven't watched Star Wars: Clone Wars, the name Barriss Offee might not mean a great deal to you, but it's actually one that is steeped in mystery and uncertainty. Of a similar age to Ahsoka Tano, Barriss Offee was a talented Jedi Padawan who fought alongside her Master, Luminara Unduli. during the Clone Wars. Steeped in emotional conflict, it was Barriss Offee who was responsible for framing Ahsoka Tano for the bombing of the Jedi temple. Offee was initially meant to have been killed off after being taken prisoner for her crimes, but Clone Wars chief, Dave Filoni, has previously said this was not the case, revealing he had big plans for the character before the show was cancelled. Because of her conflict with the Jedi Order and potential path to the Dark Side of the Force, many fans believe the Clone Wars were not the end of Offee's story. It may well be that we see her pop up somewhere further down the new Star Wars canon timeline, so it's good to be prepared just in case she does.
The Jedi Order Weren't Always Above the Odd Dirty Trick
The Jedi Order might have often preached fairness and honor, but as Christie Golden's book 'Dark Disciple' showed us, they weren't as squeaky clean as they appeared in the movies. Set in the midst of the Clone Wars, Dark Disciple sees the Jedi Order make the controversial decision to send a Jedi Master to team up with the one-time Sith Apprentice Asajj Ventress in an attempt to assassinate Count Dooku. While the majority of the Jedi Council did vote in favor of the move, not everyone was happy about it. Obi Wan Kenobi, in particular, spoke out against turning Jedi Masters into assassins, and as the book shows, he was probably right to do so, because things do not exactly go as planned.
More Jedi Survived Order 66 Than You Think
The only Jedi we see surviving Emperor Palpatine's 'Order 66' in the movies are Yoda and Obi Wan Kenobi, but the books, comics and TV shows of the new Star Wars canon tell us a very different story. Star Wars Rebels shows us that at least two other Jedi survived the mass execution of the Jedi Order. We now know that Ahsoka Tano survived Order 66, although how she did so is not clear. Kanan Jarrus (originally known as Caleb Dume) is another Jedi who managed to survive the destruction of the Jedi Order. Initially seen mentoring Ezra Bridger in Star Wars Rebels, a special Marvel Comic Book series called 'Kanan - The Last Padawan' detailed exactly how he survived the attack by his squadron of Clone Troopers. Canon properties have revealed that other Jedi did survive the initial Order 66, but many have yet to resurface, meaning they may well have perished during the reign of the Empire.
Vader's Jedi Hunters
Many of those who survived Order 66 will likely have perished at the hands of Darth Vader's force-sensitive henchmen, The Inquisitors. Though they aren't actually Sith, Inquisitors are trained in the ways of the force by Vader himself. Their sole mission is to hunt down and either kill or convert force-sensitive children while eliminating the few remaining Jedi that could potentially train them. Inquisitors were mentioned numerous times in the old Expanded Universe, but they feature far more prominently in the new canon, thanks to Star Wars Rebels. The Season 1 finale of Rebels saw Kanan and Ezra in a thrilling showdown with the Grand Inquisitor, while Season 2 sees Sarah Michelle Gellar voicing one of two new Inquisitors that memorably got their butts handed to them by none other than Ahsoka Tano.
Few People Knew that Emperor Palpatine Was a Sith Lord
Sheev Palpatine (yes, that's his full name as revealed in the canon book, Tarkin) was not only an incredibly powerful Sith, he was also a shrewd leader. Though his Sith background is prominent in the movies, some of the new canon books help to give us an insight into how the Emperor is perceived by the lay folk of the galaxy. In books such as Lords of the Sith and Lost Stars, we learn that even those who work high up the chain in the Imperial military are unaware that Palpatine is anything other than a politician. In Lords of the Sith, those who witness Palpatine's powers are either killed or left for dead, while Lost Stars details Imperial officer Ciena Ree's shock upon learning that Palpatine is no mere man. Palpatine managed to fool the entire Jedi Order about his Sith origins, so it's no surprise he was capable of fooling his own subordinates.
The Jedi Temple Was Built on a Sith Shrine
One of the most frustrating parts of the prequel movies is the Jedi Council's inability to smell a Sith Lord when they're looking right at one. How could the best the Jedi have to offer not feel the darkness oozing off of a man who would become one of the most powerful Sith in living history? Well, in James Lucerno's book, Tarkin, we learn that the Jedi Temple is actually built on top of an ancient Sith holy site. It's likely that the dark energy pouring out of the shrine beneath the temple is what was responsible for clouding the Council's vision.
Not Many People Believe in the Force
The Star Wars movies have been as much about The Force and the battle between good and evil as anything else, but across the Star Wars galaxy, it's really not a major factor. The reactions of characters like General Motti and Han Solo to even the merest mention of The Force are indicators of how the general populace of the Star Wars galaxy feel about it. In Star Wars: Lost Stars, a Rebel soldier reacts with disgust at every mention of Luke Skywalker and the rumors that he might be a Jedi, and when you think about it, it's a perfectly reasonable reaction to have. in the years since Order 66, the Empire has done a remarkable job of extinguishing any trace of the Jedi Order. Where Jedi used to be a common force for good across the galaxy, Imperial rule has seen their exploits demoted to pure mythology. Put simply, if you hadn't seen first-hand the things Jedi were capable of, there would be no reason for you to believe in it. By the time we get to The Force Awakens, it's no wonder that Rey and Finn are asking if such stories and legends are actually true.
The Rebellion is Far More Diverse Than the Movies Let On
Budgets and limitations on visual effects meant that the Rebellion of the original Star Wars movies mainly consisted of humans, but that's not the case in the wider Star Wars canon. While we do see the odd Mon Calamari and Sullustan in the movies, many of the books show that the Rebellion's cause attracted recruits of from many alien planets. Wookiees, Twi'Leks and Ithorians are just a few of the alien species to have featured in the Rebellion of the new Star Wars books and comics, which is exactly the kind of diversity you would expect from a movement on a galactic scale. Expect the Resistance of Star Wars: The Force Awakens to be far more diverse than the original trilogy's Rebel Alliance.
Empire Strikes Back Is Not Vader and Luke's First Scuffle
In Star Wars canon, a lot goes on in the build up to Vader and Luke's climactic battle in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. In Marvel's new Star Wars comics, the pair cross paths multiple times and even engage in combat, with Luke getting predictably outclassed by Vader's superior ability. Hunting Luke down becomes something of an obsession for Vader, but Luke remains blissfully unaware of his ties to the Dark Lord right up until that famous "I am your Father" moment.
Palpatine Created Cyborgs Warriors to Replace Darth Vader as His Apprentice
The new Marvel Star Wars comics pick up almost immediately after the destruction of the first Death Star at the Battle of Yavin. Though in the movies Vader is generally held in solid regard by his master, the comics show that Palpatine blamed the Death Star's destruction purely on Vader's incompetence. As punishment, Palpatine sends Vader on a series of humiliating errand boy missions to put him in his place. But all this time, Palpatine had been working with a nutty Professor known as Doctor Cylo who created Cyborgs that could mimic powers normally only available to force-sensitive beings. Should the Cyborgs prove themselves worthy, Vader's place as Palpatine's apprentice would have been in jeopardy. Unfortunately for the Cyborgs, Vader destroyed them with relative ease, proving his worth as a Lord of the Sith and ultimate bad-ass of the franchise.
Clone Troopers Are a Thing of the Past
While they may look similar with their armor on, Clone Troopers and Storm Troopers are very different beasts. As the Empire replaced Republic, the Clone program was deemed too expensive to maintain. Instead, the Empire went about setting up academies on numerous worlds, taking in hundreds of thousands of new recruits at an early age. However, while these young recruits make up the vast majority of the Imperial military, canon properties reveal that there are a few ageing Clones still in service. Thanks to the inhibitor chips placed in their skulls, these clones still make suitably loyal employees. Were it not for their accelerated ageing, Clone Troopers would have served as Stormtroopers for far longer, but instead their time in the new Stormtrooper armor only lasted for a decade or so. By the time we see Stormtroopers in Star Wars: A New Hope, we're looking at an entirely new type of soldier.
Not all of the remaining clones work for the Empire, though. In Season 2 of Star Wars Rebels, we learn that many have removed their inhibitor chips in the wake of the horrors of Order 66. Captain Rex, made famous in the Clone Wars, is one such example, and he can now be found fighting alongside Kanan and Ahsoka in the fledgling Rebel Alliance.
Darth Vader's Lightsaber May Have Survived After All
We might have seen Vader's hand and Lightsaber plummet into the abyss in Return of the Jedi, but details from the book Star Wars: Aftermath suggest that the Dark Lord's Lightsaber might have survived after all. In Aftermath, a shadowy group of figures known as The Acolytes of the Beyond purchase what they believe to be Vader's lightsaber. These Dark Side fanatics intend to destroy the weapon in order to reunite it with its owner, although exactly what they do with it is not clear. It could well be that these Acolytes of the Beyond are some of the founding members of the Knights of Ren, who will feature heavily in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
The Emperor Tried to Keep the Empire Alive After He Died
Sure, the Emperor is dead and the Imperial fleet is suffering loss after loss, but the Sith Master wasn't about to let that stop him killing a few more people. In the Marvel comic Star Wars: Shattered Empire, Palpatine sends a posthumous holo message to a number of top-ranking Imperial officials. During the message, he orders his men to lash out violently at predefined targets across the galaxy. Thanks to these messages, rumors spread that Palpatine wasn't actually dead and was instead still pulling the strings at the top of the Empire, adding to the confusion and chaos that spread across the galaxy in the wake of the Battle of Endor.
Luke's Jedi Training
Outside of a couple of sessions with Obi Wan and a trip to Dagobah, the movies give a very limited insight into Luke's Jedi training. The old expanded universe did explore this in some depth, but the new canon has merely hinted at the experiences that made Luke the Jedi he is in Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. Set just after A New Hope, the book 'Heir to the Jedi' shows us how much Luke struggles with his newfound powers before training with Yoda. With Obi Wan gone, Luke feels isolated by his force sensitivity and seeks to further his knowledge of Jedi teachings. This hunger for knowledge is something that is documented heavily in the Marvel comics, with Luke unearthing Obi Wan Kenobi's journal from his time on Tatooine and later, a number of Jedi Holocrons containing potentially vital information about the Jedi Order. By the time Luke gets to Dagobah in The Empire Strikes Back, he's already well on his way to learning about what it means to be a Jedi.
Leia's Visions of Darth Maul
We mentioned earlier about Darth Maul continuing to be a presence in Star Wars canon long after he was sliced in half, but this presence could extend well beyond the prequel trilogy era. While on a mission to Naboo in Shattered Empire, Leia receives a form of vision featuring the one-time Sith Apprentice, suggesting that the Dathomirian still has a part to play in the Star Wars saga. Could we see Maul appear in one of the upcoming anthology movies or TV shows?
The Fate of Boba Fett
Boba Fett perished in the digestive tract of the Sarlacc, right? Well, maybe not, because in Star Wars: Aftermath we discover that Boba Fett's armor has been salvaged by Jawas on Tatooine. Of course, it's quite possible that the Sarlacc spat the hard-to-digest Mandalorian armor out, but we've got a hunch that the world's most famous bounty hunter lived to fight another day. This is, of course, what happened in the old Legend expanded universe, and a lot of people would be rather happy if the new canon were to do something similar.
The Galactic Senate Was Re-Instated After Return of the Jedi
With the Imperial fleet on the ropes, the leaders of the Rebel Alliance waste little time in reintroducing the galaxy to democracy. The Galactic Senate is reinstated, not on Coruscant, but on Mon Mothma's home planet of Chandrila. In Star Wars: Aftermath, a number of chapters are dedicated to the reaction and confusion caused by the political flux. TV broadcasts are made as the first senators arrive at the dawn of The New Republic, while in other corners of the galaxy, Imperial propaganda desperately tries to dampen news of the spreading democracy.
Of course, quite how The New Republic crumbles by the time The Force Awakens comes around, we don't yet know. But there could be a clue.....
The New Republic Was Heavily De-Militarized by Mon Mothma
As head of the new Galactic Senate, Mon Mothma petitions to see The New Republic drastically demilitarized. Arguing that the galaxy has seen enough war to last several lifetimes, Mothma believes that the only way the new regime can gain the trust of galactic citizens is by reducing the threat of violence almost completely. This might sound like a good move, but in reality it could prove to be a fatal one for Mothma's new regime...
The Empire Wasn't Completely Defeated, It Just Went into Hiding
At the end of Return of the Jedi, we assume that all is well in the galaxy and that the Empire has been completely defeated. Unfortunately, the last few months of canon books and comics show us that this is far from accurate. In Lost Stars we learn that the Empire was never truly eliminated, suggesting it would still pose a major threat to those seeking democracy for the galaxy. Though the Battle of Jakku (roughly a year after Return of the Jedi) dealt a decisive blow to the Empire's strength, it didn't completely topple the organization, nor did it remove all of the people who believed in what the Empire stood for.
With their forces depleted, but far from completely wiped out, the Imperial fleet retreats to the very fringes of known space. There, they begin to focus on developing new technologies that can help the regime return to its former glory. It's during this time that the technology on display in The Force Awakens was developed, but only when The Force Awakens hits theaters will we learn how they emerge from the shadows.
TIE Fighters Get a Major Upgrade
While they may be one of the more iconic sci-fi vehicles out there, there's no doubting that the Imperial TIE Fighter had some major flaws. Unlike Rebel ships like X-Wings and Y-Wings, TIE Fighters did not have any form of shielding. This meant that whereas a TIE Fighter would have to land a number of hits to destroy its prey, a Rebel pilot could eliminate its target with one shot. In the last chapters of Lost Stars, we learn that one of the new technologies developed by the Empire during their time in the shadows was a major upgrade to the TIE Fighters weaponry that would allow them to pierce the shields of a Rebel starfighter with one shot. Personally, if I were a TIE pilot I'd probably just prefer a shield of my own, even if it did mean sacrificing some maneuverability.
Poe Dameron - More than Just a Pilot?
Oscar Isaac's X-Wing pilot, Poe Dameron, is a major factor in the story of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, but we get some interesting (and potentially spoilery) details on his background in the Marvel comic, Shattered Empire. Poe's Mother, Shara Bey, is a hot shot Rebel pilot and the protagonist of the Shattered Empire series, while his father Kes Dameron was among the Rebel forces on the ground during the Battle of Endor.
Towards the end of the 4-issue series, Shara joins Luke Skywalker on a mission to the planet Velte, where they discover two magical trees that once grew at the Jedi Temple on Coruscant. Emperor Palpatine had been studying the trees in an Imperial Science facility, but by the time Shara and Luke arrive, all that is left of them are two branches. The pair each take a branch to plant, and the final scenes of the series show Poe Dameron growing up next to this potentially magical tree. Could Poe's exposure to this tree mean that he is more than just a brilliant X-Wing pilot?
Luke May Have Attempted to Start a New Jedi Order
While Shara Bey planted one of the aforementioned Jedi trees, Luke Skywalker took possession of the other. Though he never revealed what he had planned for the branch, there are a couple of clues throughout Star Wars canon that suggest it was all part of a plan that he was likely working on between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens. In the book 'Weapon of a Jedi', Luke winds up on the planet Devaron where he is guided to an ancient site known as the Temple of Eadit (seen above after an attack by Savage Opress). The temple was used as a base by Jedi forces during Star Wars: Clone Wars, and during his time there, Luke is contacted by the ghost of Obi Wan who helps him further his knowledge of the Force.
Before leaving Devaron, Luke vows to one day restore the ruined temple to its former glory. It's not out of the realm of possibility that part of the Jedi Temple tree from Shattered Empire is a major part of Luke's plan. It may well be that in the build-up to the events of The Force Awakens, the Heir to the Jedi has been slowly working to rebuild the Jedi order on this very site.
Want to see the full Star Wars canon chronology? Check out our Star Wars Timeline Infographic